The road to Tusheti was not completed until the late 1970s. The old horse road is still in use. There was an attempt by the Soviet regime to string power lines and poles alongside this road. Both the road and the rusty power poles still exist. The road is shaped like a snake because man made it that way. The steel power poles, however, have been contorted into the shape of a snake because winters at 2900+ made them so.I spent five days in Tusheti after completing my year contract with TLG. Though it was late June, I still saw my breath at night. Yellow buttercup flowers covered the open spaces, suggesting that flecks of sunlight somehow got stuck to the ground. I saw the stoic deer on the 20 tetri coin leaping around–in real life. The snow-covered mountains were so close, but people were hard to come by.
It was a world apart from the Georgia I’d come to know so well over the last ten months. The people were more reserved, there were no restaurants serving up hot khinkali with cold beer, and there were hardly any cars or marshrutkas to look out for.
When our hired 4×4 descended out of the great mountains, we re-entered the Georgia we knew. Nothing had changed–marshrutka drivers still yelled “Kho!” into their cell phones, traffic raged on in its normal but inexplicable fury, and women still teetered around mulberry-stained city sidewalks on their impossible heels.
It felt strange re-entering this familiar landscape. A simple dirt road had taken me to such a different place. Was Tusheti a dream? Had time been suspended while I traipsed around in a historical, shale-roofed dreamscape? Though I was quite smitten with the undisturbed serenity of Tusheti, I’ll admit that I was overjoyed at the prospect of simply walking five paces from my marshrutka at Didube to get a hot khachapuri and cold bottle of Bakuriani.
One week later, my plane touched down in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Weary from 30 hours of shuffling, soaring, and snoozing, I trudged my luggage home and slept. I woke up the next day to find that, oh! Minnesota hadn’t changed much. The same bus routes were running, Dad’s mustache still had its signature shape, and people still pecked at their smartphones day and night. The world had carried on while I was gone.
Was Georgia just a (righteous) dream?
Since coming back, lots of people have welcomed me back to the “real world.” I think I know what they mean. But I was in the real world the whole time–I made real relationships with real people, ate some real(ly good food), and have real memories.
But all that was two months ago. And lots has happened since then. I have since eaten my fair share of avocados (!!!), moved cross-country, and remembered the hard way that people here can understand EVERYTHING I SAY. But best of all, I landed a good job. The first question of the interview: “So we took a look at your resume and are we’re all wondering…can you say something in Georgian?”